Friday, June 29, 2012

A Baleful Glare at E3 2012, Part 2: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a new spinoff of Metal Gear Solid starring everyone's favorite guy who stands in for Solid Snake when Snake is too busy doing cool stuff offscreen that we don't get to see to be the playable character, Raiden.

Actually, as one of the three people in the English-speaking world who actually liked Raiden even before he made his transformation from Who the Hell Is This Blond Guy Who's Not Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2 to terrifyingly deadly sword-wielding cyborg cutscene ninja in Metal Gear Solid 4, I'm glad to see Raiden getting his day in the sun. It's a pity that it had to be accompanied by the most gratingly stupid name for a game since Toki: Going ApeSpit, but you can't have everything.

Yes, I know that “revengeance” actually is a real, albeit archaic, English word. That's not an excuse.

The game is set years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Raiden- who seems to have adopted the three-packs-a-day Lucky Strikes Grizzled Badass Voice Training regimen at some point- is working as a military contractor in a war-torn country. There's an invasion or coup d'etat by an army that appears to be led by an evil bald cyborg. Much swordplay ensues.

Featuring Eric "Butterbean" Esch in a special guest appearance!
First thought: Holy CRAP, this is bloody. It's not like the previous Metal Gear Solid games were perfectly sanitary, splattering-fluids-free affairs, but this seems to be kicking it up a notch. On the one hand, it makes sense, since your main weapon this time is a sword, the developers have promised that you can cut through almost any object in the game, and the plausibility of the sort of PG-13 “guys get hit and fall over” violence possible in a game where you're using guns or your fists starts to fall apart when you take an ultrasharp futuristic blade shown to be capable of cutting through giant stone pillars and start hitting human beings with it.

On the other hand, a lot of that blood is spewing out of damaged armored vehicles, which makes less sense than virtually anything whatsoever. (Yeah, we've already seen something similar in Metal Gear Solid 4. That merely pushes the what-the-fuckness of it back a step.)

It looks pretty cool, with Raiden using his superhuman cyborg ninja agility and swordsmanship to cut a swath through hordes of enemy soldiers and robots, a slow-mo mechanic that lets Raiden make deadly precision strikes, and all sorts of crazy stunts and feats of badassery putting me in mind of Devil May Cry or Vanquish. I also think giving a new game starring Raiden a very different style of gameplay from mainline Metal Gear Solid games is a good idea since, assuming it's done well, it makes Raiden a character who's interesting and exciting in his own way, rather than returning him to his original Metal Gear Solid 2 role as the Curly Joe to Solid Snake's Curly. (Which would make Big Boss the Shemp in this analogy, I suppose.)

Despite showing initial promise, the U.S. Army's research into Jell-O-powered armored vehicles was eventually abandoned after the disappointing performance of several prototypes under field conditions.
However, it doesn't look particularly Metal Gear. It sounds ridiculous for me to say that the sort of feats Raiden pulls off in the trailer are too incongruously wild, flashy, or over-the-top to fit in with a series that's previously featured psychokinesis, nuclear-armed mecha, a Soviet colonel with the same electrical powers as Ernest in Ernest Goes to Jail, ghosts, and a man who commands an army of bees, but some of them kind of are. I don't mind, as someone who find Metal Gear interesting but doesn't have any strong investment in it, but I can see why some more devoted fans might react negatively to it.

Also, kudos to however created the trailer. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd have the words “badass” and “Depeche Mode” appear in the same thought together, but I've been proven wrong.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Baleful Glare at E3 2012, Part 1: Beyond: Two Souls

E3 2012 has come and gone. Just like we did last year at Pointless Side Quest, except this time actually in the same month as the show itself, it's time to take a look back at what this year's Electronic Entertainment Exposition had to offer.

Beyond: Two Souls

The debut trailer video, starts off in a small town police station where a police officer has brought a young girl with a shaved head, who was found unconscious by the road. She's silent and seems almost catatonic, and he's trying in vain to get her to talk when a cup of coffee sitting on the desk rises into the air and hurls itself across the room. Then the cop goes into the other room while the girl starts talking to a hovering POV camera and says “They're coming,” a heavily armed SWAT team shows up, and... Well, the screen goes black and leaves us on a cliffhanger, but based on past precedent in the eternal struggle between spooky young females with psychokinesis and squads of heavily armed paramilitaries I'm guessing most of that SWAT team will be going home in Ziploc bags.

My initial hope upon seeing a mentally disturbed bald female who seemingly has telekinetic powers was that this was some sort of Young Jack Chronicles prequel spinoff of Mass Effect, but no. Instead, it's a game from Quantic Dreams called Beyond: Two Souls, about a woman named Jodie Holmes who's on the run while accompanied by some sort of supernatural entity called “Aiden.” Jodie Holmes is voiced by actress Ellen Page, whose name I'd never heard of before but is apparently an actress from the talkies that the kids are into nowadays.

(Actually, having looked up her film credits, I have seen her at least once before when she played Shadowcat in X3: The Last Stand. Her performance as a girl in black leather being chased by a huge guy with a giant flower pot on his head was one of the high points of the film. If I was talking about the first two X-Men movies that would be a joke, but... )

It's not clear from the trailer exactly what Aiden is- aside from not being a big coffee drinker, presumably- but the game will involve using his supernatural powers to protect Jodie from her pursuers, controlling both characters at different points. Said powers include telekinesis, which scales up from merely rudely refusing beverages to stuff like throwing cars around, what looks like some sort of mind control- or whatever unpleasantness a dude's eyes rolling back in his head after being touched by an eerie glow signifies- and protective force fields, among other things.

It looks like it could be pretty cool. On the other hand, it's made by the same developers who did Heavy Rain, which didn't interest me; I'm not a fan of the sort of PC-style adventure games that seem to be Heavy Rain's closest analogue and am generally skeptical of the idea that games ought to mimic other media. On the third hand, what we've seen and been told about the game so far seems to suggest that Beyond will be more conventionally game-y and less of an interactive movie/mundane daily task simulator, which has more appeal to me. On the fourth hand, that's exactly what I would expect people trying to promote the game to say.

Yet, on the fifth hand, I think my negative feelings towards Heavy Rain probably stem in large part from the more obnoxious elements of the game's boosters rather than the game itself, which is hardly fair to the people at Quantic Dreams. It's not as if David Cage is the one pontificating about how I'm a subnormal philistine ruining the gaming industry because I don't want to use quicktime events to simulate carrying out dull, everyday tasks when I can already do those dull, everyday tasks in real life and gain the added bonus of actually getting them done, after all. So I'll try to keep an open mind on this.

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